Apr 15, 2024 - Health

Supreme Court allows Idaho to enforce gender-affirming treatment ban for minors

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images

The Supreme Court allowed Idaho to begin enforcing its ban on an array of gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors on Monday while the state appeals a lower-court ruling.

The big picture: Idaho is among 24 states with laws and policies prohibiting or restricting minor access to gender-affirming care.

  • While some of the measures are paused for legal challenges, a majority are in effect, according to KFF.
  • Some state legislatures have or have sought to broadly limit transition care for adults, too, Axios' Maya Goldman reports.

Context: A federal judge in December ruled Idaho could not begin enforcing the rule after it was set to go into effect on Jan. 1 as it had violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment.

  • Idaho then asked the Supreme Court to reverse the judge's ruling and allow enforcement of the law while the state appeals.
  • The law bans over 20 different treatments, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, for transgender minors. Doctors and pharmacists can face up to 10 years in prison and fines if they violate the law.

Details: Justice Neil Gorsuch, in an explanation for why he voted to allow the law to go into effect, said the lower court went "much further" than it needed to in preventing the state from enforcing the law.

  • The state should have only been prevented from enforcing the law against the two plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Gorsuch said.
  • As such, the plaintiffs may receive care, but other minors will be prohibited from treatment once the law takes effect.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the two teenagers, derided the decision in a statement, calling it an "awful result for transgender youth and their families across the state."

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said she believes the court's decision amounted to "micromanaging the lower courts' exercise of their discretionary authority in the midst of active litigation."

  • "This Court is not compelled to rise and respond every time an applicant rushes to us with an alleged emergency, and it is especially important for us to refrain from doing so in novel, highly charged, and unsettled circumstances," she wrote.

Be smart: Major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, consider this type of care to be medically necessary and potentially lifesaving for transgender youth."

Zoom out: The Supreme Court may soon decide to directly weigh in on the constitutionality of laws like Idaho's.

  • The Biden administration last year urged the court to reverse Tennessee's ban on gender-affirming care for minors but SCOTUS has yet to decide whether it will take up the case.

Zoom in: In its current legislative session, Idaho's legislature has pursued additional restrictions on gender-affirming care.

  • In March, it passed, and Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) signed, a law banning public funds for gender-affirming medications and surgeries for adults and children in the state.

Go deeper: Florida ban on changing ID gender marker sparks fear among trans people

Editor's note: This article has been updated with further context.

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